Darwin Evolves into an App, Readers Control Outcome of Science-based eBook

Posted on March 9, 2016

A mobile app that essentially channels Charles Darwin and an interactive ebook focused on sleep—both developed at Duquesne—have each received a Parents’ Choice Recommended Award for Spring 2016.

The products, created by Dr. John Pollock, professor of biological sciences in the Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, were among the 20 percent of those submitted to receive a commendation from the independent Parents’ Choice Foundation.

The all-ages Charles Darwin Synthetic Interview, created by Pollock and curated by Dr. David Lampe, associate professor of biological sciences, is available in a free, “lite” version for iPad/iPhone and Android. It features the 24 most popular questions that children and adults wanted to ask the late scientist. The full version, with 199 questions, is available for about $10 from Apple iTunes, Google Play and the Amazon App Store.

The Parent’s Choice Synthetic Darwin review noted that “in large part fascinating and bordering on eerie (but in a good way) students of Charles Darwin can ask questions of the renowned naturalist and geologist…”

Lampe’s answers to questions generated from more than 1,000 interviews with Pittsburgh students and adults are based upon Darwin’s writings and biographies.

“In short, the answers are precisely how Darwin would respond if he were sitting next to you at a dinner party,” concluded the Parents’ Choice review, noting that the app would best serve classrooms, libraries and those interested in Darwin.

“There is a lot of confusion over principles of evolution and about Darwin as an individual,” Pollock said, noting that a recent Pew Research Center Study shows a minority of Americans fully accept the fundamental principles of evolution. “The app provides factual and comprehensive discussion about Darwin and his life—Was he a good student? Did he have a pet?—as well as a discussion of evolution. There really is something for everyone in the app, whether you are interested in the history of science, the principles of evolution or the social impact of the science.”

The Bibliotech ebook CITYHACKS: In Search of Sleep, a free app geared for the iPads of those ages 9 and older, prompts readers to make choices that impact the outcome of the story. The book, created and produced by Pollock, focuses on a teen finding facts about sleep in hopes of convincing her parents that she should join a late-night programming club. Readers help the teen make her case, relying on drawings and notes from their digital notebooks, as she visits a zoo, a sleep lab and more.

“Fortunately, the book can be read numerous times, and there are several choices to be made, so the path to the conclusion can take a few unique turns,” says the CITYHACKS Parent’s Choice review. “For a free app, there is plenty here to learn and enjoy.”

Learn more about Pollock’s organization, The Partnership in Education based at Duquesne, and its resources for families and educators.

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